Immigration yields innovation—and Ozcan Cikmaz’s story illustrates that perfectly.
Ozcan’s startup has developed a phone app that identifies an individual’s migraine trigger and predicts when a migraine will hit. The technology will help the one billion migraine sufferers worldwide to more effectively monitor and manage this debilitating neurological disease.
Ozcan’s story begins in Turkey. He attributes two experiences for shaping his entrepreneurial endeavors.
For most of his childhood, Ozcan remembers his mother suffering from constant, debilitating pain. While healthcare in Turkey is free, quality healthcare is available only to those who can pay, he says. “My father couldn’t afford to pay for my mother’s healthcare.”
Doctors misdiagnosed his mother seven times. Illiterate and afraid to be insulted or written off by doctors, she suffered in silence. Only much later did she and her family learn she suffered from migraines.
Over the years, Ozcan took up biathlon, hang gliding, high-altitude winter climbing, karate, orienteering, and skiing. He began competing nationally in those sports.
During a winter climbing trek eight years ago, a storm stranded him 3,500 meters (nearly 11,500 feet) up Demirkazik Peak in -35° Celsius weather. With nothing to do other than wait for help—or death—to arrive, he reflected on his life.
“I felt like the life I had led was selfish,” he says. “If I made it, I promised myself I would help people with the work I do, not for my own success. My mom inspired me to do something in healthcare.”
He recorded himself on video making that promise. Five days later, Ozcan found the strength to climb down the mountain on his own.
Pursuing the Promise
Ozcan made good on his promise. After two failed healthcare startup ventures—first in Istanbul and then in Paris—he conceptualized Hospital on Mobile. He envisioned developing tools for smartphones that would use artificial intelligence, enabling people to monitor their health and make predictions.
“Whatever I developed had to be super simple—so simple that even my mom can use it,” Ozcan says. “If my mom can use it, anyone can.”
Hospital on Mobile’s first product is Migraine.AI. The smartphone app enables migraine sufferers to monitor their migraines, determine what triggers them and predicts attacks.
He knew he needed to start his company in Silicon Valley to access the talent here. He reached out to the Alcorn Immigration Law team for assistance.
We determined his best option was to apply for an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) green card.
The EB-2 NIW is reserved for individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business whose work has distinction and national importance. Entrepreneurs like Ozcan whose startups are creating products or services that help people make great candidates for this national interest green card.
The past several weeks have brought great news for Ozcan.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved Ozcan’s EB-2 NIW petition last month. Now, he awaits his green card interview.
What’s more, clinical trials to study the effectiveness of Migraine.AI have begun at MIT, as well as at Oxford University in conjunction with Garmin Ltd. and other tech companies. Ozcan says that pharmaceutical companies and investors are also interested in Migraine.AI.
If you’re looking to come to or remain in Silicon Valley to create or grow your startup, please reach out to us. We’re eager to help!